The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the accuracy of thousands of DUI breath tests is being questioned in Northern California. Defense Attorney Jeff Adachi stated that the issue could affect as many as 1,000 convictions.
It is reported that both the police as well as the District Attorney's office admitted that there was a problem with "negligence" in maintaining maintenance logs. The report is that for years, the police have been falsely reporting their maintenance and calibration logs. The Alco-Sensor IV breath test device, used to test the breath alcohol levels for individuals suspected of Driving Under the Influence, is the subject of this report.
Southern California's DUI Defense Attorneys must give this issue serious consideration because the testing devices used in this incident of police misconduct by falsification of evidence are the same devices used you our community. Further the overall attitude of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors throughout Southern California tends to mirror that of the agencies in this incident.
A defense attorney, in reviewing previous years, noticed that the breath test instrument was reporting nearly perfect results on every "control test", which would be mathematically impossible.
After the allegation that law enforcement was forging breath testing accuracy check logs, it was also reported that the alcohol/gas mixture that is used in this type of control testing (which was supposed to maintain a constant value of .082) had expired in September 2010! The manufacturer of the Alco-Sensor IV devices says that police should conduct accuracy checks every 10 days, or after 150 tests! While the investigation continues, all of the devices were pulled from normal operation.
The chief defense attorney for appointed counsel indicated that as many as 500 to 1000 individuals could have been wrongfully convicted. This is a classic case of the "end justifies the means" attitude of some individuals. Law Enforcement plays a key and courageous part in protecting the public and our laws. But that role does not place them above the law. Some may have the position "they were probably guilty anyway" which flies directly in the face of the protections our laws and Constitution give each citizen, specifically those accused of committing crimes.
We are reminded of the principles on which our legal system was founded: "Better that ten guilty persons escape prosecution than one innocent person suffer", which was initiated by English jurist William Blackstone.
It is simple to classify individuals as conviction statistics and allow governmental agencies to steamroll over citizens with an attitude of "who cares if some innocents get caught up in our meat-grinder". Regardless of how media may want to portray anyone accused of DUI, the fact is that we are dealing with human lives. Those employed by our citizens to prosecute and enforce laws should be held to the highest standards. Should those in law enforcement fail in meeting these standards, as in the Northern California cases, then naturally they should not be allowed to secure convictions.
It is important that anyone accused of DUI retained a qualified and experienced Southern California DUI Attorney to assist them in their defense.